SALT LAKE CITY — Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren and members of the 25th Navajo Nation Council, including Speaker Crystalyne Curley, met today with Utah leaders to advocate for state-level protections of Native American children through H.B. 40. The bill would codify major parts of the Indian Child Welfare Act in Utah statute.
As part of the day’s advocacy, the group met with Utah Lieutenant Governor Deidre Henderson to receive her assurances that the administration supports the effort by the tribes to codify ICWA at the state level.
The bill, which is supported by Navajo leadership and the Navajo Utah Commission, has not yet been advanced this week at the state legislature in committee. It must be voted-on by state legislators in order to become law.
“The Navajo Nation’s goal is to continue protecting our children,” said President Nygren. “We know we have made significant progress with the state of Utah and we want to see that continue.”
Council Delegate Germaine Simonson discussed the importance of our tribal kinship system. “In expressing our clanship, we are automatically related,” she said. “…even if not by blood.”
Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Chairman Manuel Heart said, “We as tribes are here as tribal leaders elected by our people to do the best we can.” He reiterated the importance of keeping children close to their communities as a matter of shared importance among Utah’s eight tribal nations.
Children are taken off the reservation and are put in homes that do not relate to their way of life. It compares to the residential boarding school system designed to take away cultural identities, he said.
Lt. Gov. Henderson brought the group’s attention to the next steps in the stalled bill’s journey to becoming law, saying: “Getting it through the committee is the first step.”